Just as all peanut butters aren’t created equally, neither are all sesame seed pastes.
Otherwise known as tahini, the vital ingredient in hummus, now’s there’s one that not only makes you sit up and take notice with its robust flavor, but also its mission to cross cultural divides.
New York-based Goni Light and husband Yonatan Sela created SoCo Tahini a year ago. The two are no stranger to business endeavors — or to tahini. They both grew up in Israel. Sela received an MBA from the Wharton School of Business, and worked for a venture capital firm before becoming chief business officer of YouNow, a live broadcasting-based social network. Light earned a master’s of science at New York University before working for years as a finance manager at Proctor & Gamble.
When they came to the United States, Light and Sela were dismayed that they couldn’t find any decent tahini. So, they sourced their own, first selling it at a stand at Burning Man, before establishing a bona fide company last year, Seeds of Collaboration or SoCo for short.
Their tahini is produced by their partners, a Palestinian family in the West Bank that has been making it for decades. It is marketed by a team of Israelis and Palestinians in the United States. And for every 2,000 jars sold, they provide seed funding for an Israeli-Palestinian student start-up at MEET (Middle Eastern Entrepreneurs of Tomorrow), a non-profit in partnership with MIT that builds bridges between young Israeli and Palestinian students through technology and entrepreneurship.
As noble as that is, I’m sure the question you really want answered is: How does it taste?
In a word? Fabulous.
I had a chance to try a sample recently. I’ve had other tahini in the past, but none that had this profoundly nutty taste and super smooth texture. It’s a little savory, and a bit naturally sweet from the sesame seeds, themselves — the only ingredient in this product, which is vegan and kosher.
SoCo stone-grounds sesame seeds that have been roasted low and slow, which gives the tahini its deep toasty flavor. It also boasts 6 grams of protein per 2-tablespoon-size serving that has 220 calories.
It comes in 13.4-ounce jars. A set of two jars is $19.99 on Amazon.
It will definitely spoil you for any other tahini. Use it in your next batch of hummus, in salad dressings, cookies or this pretty tea cake from Bon Appetit magazine.
“Swirled Sesame Tea Cake” not only incorporates tahini in its batter, but plenty of black and white sesame seeds all over its exterior, along with a sprinkle of sugar, which will turn the cake deeply golden brown after baking.
The swirl is created by reserving half of the batter to mix in ground black sesame seeds. Then the regular batter and the black sesame batter are dolloped into the baking pan before you run a knife through it all in a figure “8.”
Slice into the baked cake, and reveal the surprise swirl inside. This cake is plenty nutty tasting. It’s not full-on savory, but rather just ever so sweet, straddling the great divide just as this artisan tahini does.
Swirled Sesame Tea Cake
(Makes one 81/2-by-4 1/2-inch loaf)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly coat an 8½-by-4½ loaf pan with nonstick spray. Line with parchment paper, leaving overhang on long sides. Lightly coat parchment with nonstick spray. Sprinkle sides and bottom of pan with white and black sesame seeds and sugar and shake around in pan to coat; tap out excess. Finely grind 2 tablespoons black sesame seeds in a spice mill, food processor, or blender; set aside.
Whisk flour, baking powder, salt, cardamom, and baking soda in a medium bowl to combine. Whisk yogurt and tahini in another small bowl until smooth (mixture will seize and stiffen at first).
Using an electric mixer on medium-high speed, beat eggs, vanilla, and 1 cup sugar in a large bowl until eggs are pale and thick (use the paddle attachment if using a stand mixer), about 2 minutes. Reduce speed to medium and, with motor running, gradually stream in vegetable oil and sesame oil. Reduce speed to low and add dry ingredients in 3 additions, alternating with yogurt mixture in 2 additions, beginning and ending with dry ingredients. Beat after each addition until fully incorporated. Scrape half of batter into the bowl that held the dry ingredients. Add reserved ground black sesame seeds to the remaining batter and mix on medium speed until evenly distributed—this is your black swirl.
Alternating between batters, spoon large dollops into prepared pan, then drag the tip of a paring knife through batter in a figure-eight pattern to swirl.
Sprinkle with more white and black sesame seeds, then with more sugar. Bake until a tester inserted into the center of cake comes out clean, 55 to 65 minutes. Transfer pan to a wire rack and let cake cool in pan 10 minutes. Run a knife around short sides of pan and use parchment to help lift cake out of pan and onto rack. Let cool completely.
Do Ahead: Cake can be baked 2 days ahead. Store tightly wrapped at room temperature.
From Bon Appetit magazine, April 2018
More Uses For Tahini: Creamy Grits with Blistered Tomatoes, Pickled Serrano Chiles, and Sunflower-Miso Tahini